In the last post about adaptogens, I said that adaptogens can help people cope better with stress. But what actually is stress and why do adaptogens work in this way?
The word stress originally comes from material science and means: to adapt, to bend, to distort. So when a stressor came at us in evolution and tried to bend us, the adequate response over millions of years was that we reacted with adaptation, that is with adaptation. Then the stress had a purpose. It would then have been an eustress, a positive stress and not a distress.
Today, however, we live in a time in which artificial and unproductive stress has taken over to such an extent that the balance between ego and environment - one also speaks of allostatic load - is dramatically disturbed in most people.
The stress response is responsible for our organs wearing out, our cardiovascular system becoming overloaded and much more. For example, neurogenesis, the formation of new brain cells, is also blocked by stress hormones.
Our behaviour is affected by stress.
Our behaviour is altered by the release of serotonin and noradrenaline so that we no longer react like humans - cerebrum - but rather like reptiles - brain stem.
In other words: We become reactive automatons and lose our mental space, which is what makes us human. Being human: That glorious always being able to start over and reinvent ourselves!
On the physical level, the stress response is mediated by the so-called HPA axis. This refers to the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal cortex, which release certain substances such as cortisol, adrenaline, etc. This is where adaptogens intervene. This is precisely where adaptogens intervene biochemically.
Adaptogens regulate and curb the release of stress hormones at the physical level. The number of studies investigating these mechanisms is growing exponentially every year. This is also because stress is partly responsible for many of our diseases of civilisation.
So adaptogens could potentially be a building block of health for people who want to free themselves from a state of chronic exhaustion, also called burn out.